The Broken Chessboard

Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire

by Mike Whitney

CounterPunch (August 25 2016)

The main architect of Washington’s plan to rule the world has abandoned the scheme and called for the forging of ties with Russia and China. While Zbigniew Brzezinski’s article in The American Interest titled “Towards a Global Realignment” has largely been ignored by the media, it shows that powerful members of the policymaking establishment no longer believe that Washington will prevail in its quest to extend US hegemony across the Middle East and Asia. Brzezinski, who was the main proponent of this idea and who drew up the blueprint for imperial expansion in his book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (1997), has done an about-face and called for a dramatic revising of the strategy. Here’s an excerpt from the article in the The American Interest:

 

As its era of global dominance ends, the United States needs to take the lead in realigning the global power architecture.

Five basic verities regarding the emerging redistribution of global political power and the violent political awakening in the Middle East are signaling the coming of a new global realignment.

The first of these verities is that the United States is still the world’s politically, economically, and militarily most powerful entity but, given complex geopolitical shifts in regional balances, it is no longer the globally imperial power. {1}

 

Repeat: The US is “no longer the globally imperial power”. Compare this assessment to a statement Brzezinski made years earlier in The Grand Chessboard when he claimed the US was “the world’s paramount power”.

 

… The last decade of the twentieth century has witnessed a tectonic shift in world affairs. For the first time ever, a non-Eurasian power has emerged not only as a key arbiter of Eurasian power relations but also as the world’s paramount power. The defeat and collapse of the Soviet Union was the final step in the rapid ascendance of a Western Hemisphere power, the United States, as the sole and, indeed, the first truly global power.

— The Grand Chessboard (1997), page xiii

 

Here’s more from the article in The American Interest:

 

The fact is that there has never been a truly “dominant” global power until the emergence of America on the world scene … The decisive new global reality was the appearance on the world scene of America as simultaneously the richest and militarily the most powerful player. During the latter part of the 20th century no other power even came close. That era is now ending. {1}

 

But why is “that era is now ending”? What’s changed since 1997 when Brzezinski referred to the US as the “world’s paramount power”?

Brzezinski points to the rise of Russia and China, the weakness of Europe and the “violent political awakening among post-colonial Muslims” as the proximate causes of this sudden reversal. His comments on Islam are particularly instructive in that he provides a rational explanation for terrorism rather than the typical government boilerplate about “hating our freedoms”. To his credit, Brzezinski sees the outbreak of terror as the “welling up of historical grievances” (from “deeply felt sense of injustice”) not as the mindless violence of fanatical psychopaths.

Naturally, in a short 1,500-word article, Brzezniski can’t cover all the challenges (or threats) the US might face in the future. But it’s clear that what he’s most worried about is the strengthening of economic, political and military ties between Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and the other Central Asian states. This is his main area of concern, in fact, he even anticipated this problem in 1997 when he wrote The Grand Chessboard. Here’s what he said:

 

Henceforth, the United States may have to determine how to cope with regional coalitions that seek to push America out of Eurasia, thereby threatening America’s status as a global power. (page 55)

    … To put it in a terminology that harkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together. (page 40)

 

“… prevent collusion … among the vassals”. That says it all, doesn’t it?

The Obama administration’s reckless foreign policy, particularly the toppling of governments in Libya and Ukraine, has greatly accelerated the rate at which these anti-American coalitions have formed. In other words, Washington’s enemies have emerged in response to Washington’s behavior. Obama can only blame himself.

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin has responded to the growing threat of regional instability and the placing of Nato forces on Russia’s borders by strengthening alliances with countries on Russia’s perimeter and across the Middle East. At the same time, Putin and his colleagues in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries have established an alternate banking system (BRICS Bank and AIIB) that will eventually challenge the dollar-dominated system that is the source of US global power. This is why Brzezinski has done a quick 180 and abandoned the plan for US hegemony; it is because he is concerned about the dangers of a non-dollar-based system arising among the developing and unaligned countries that would replace the western Central Bank oligopoly. If that happens, then the US will lose its stranglehold on the global economy and the extortionist system whereby fishwrap greenbacks are exchanged for valuable goods and services will come to an end.

Unfortunately, Brzezinski’s more cautious approach is not likely to be followed by presidential-favorite Hillary Clinton who is a firm believer in imperial expansion through force of arms. It was Clinton who first introduced “pivot” to the strategic lexicon in a speech she gave in 2010 titled “America’s Pacific Century”. Here’s an excerpt from the speech that appeared in Foreign Policy magazine:

 

As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a pivot point. Over the last ten years, we have allocated immense resources to those two theaters. In the next ten years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment – diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise – in the Asia-Pacific region …

Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology … American firms (need) to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia …

The region already generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade. As we strive to meet President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015, we are looking for opportunities to do even more business in Asia … and our investment opportunities in Asia’s dynamic markets. {2}

 

Compare Clinton’s speech to comments Brzezinski made in The Grand Chessboard fourteen years earlier:

 

For America, the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia … (page 30) … Eurasia is the globe’s largest continent and is geopolitically axial. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions … About 75 per cent of the world’s people live in Eurasia, and most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for sixty per cent of the world’s GNP and about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources (page 31).

 

The strategic objectives are identical, the only difference is that Brzezinski has made a course correction based on changing circumstances and the growing resistance to US bullying, domination and sanctions. We have not yet reached the tipping point for US primacy, but that day is fast approaching and Brzezinski knows it.

In contrast, Clinton is still fully-committed to expanding US hegemony across Asia. She doesn’t understand the risks this poses for the country or the world. She’s going to persist with the interventions until the US war-making juggernaut is stopped dead-in-its-tracks which, judging by her hyperbolic rhetoric, will probably happen some time in her first term.

Brzezinski presents a rational but self-serving plan to climb-down, minimize future conflicts, avoid a nuclear conflagration and preserve the global order (aka the “dollar system”). But will bloodthirsty Hillary follow his advice?

Not a chance.

Links:

{1} http://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/04/17/toward-a-global-realignment/

{2} http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/10/11/americas-pacific-century/

The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire

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The Term “Conspiracy Theory” …

… was Invented by the CIA in order to Prevent Disbelief of Official Government Stories

by Paul Craig Roberts

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org (August 24 2016)

Ron Unz reports on the cold shoulder given to an extensively researched book that concludes that World War Two hero General George Patton was murdered by the CIA because he became a powerful critic of Washington {1}.

The book was ignored because the US media and public have been programmed to regard the US government as a truth-teller and those who expose government crimes as “conspiracy theorists”.

In 2013 Professor Lance Dehaven-Smith in a peer-reviewed book published by the University of Texas Press showed that the term “conspiracy theory” was developed by the CIA as a means of undercutting critics of the Warren Commission’s report that President Kennedy was killed by Oswald. The use of this term was heavily promoted in the media by the CIA {2}

It is ironic that the American left is a major enforcer of the CIA’s strategy to shut up skeptics by branding them conspiracy theorists.

Links:

{1} http://www.unz.com/runz/was-general-patton-assassinated/

{2} https://www.amazon.com/Conspiracy-Theory-America-Discovering/dp/0292757697/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472198722&sr=1-1

Copyright (c) 2016 PaulCraigRoberts.org. All rights reserved.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2016/08/24/the-term-conspiracy-theory-was-invented-by-the-cia-in-order-to-prevent-disbelief-of-official-government-stories/

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What Are the Odds …

… that the 2020 & 2022 Olympics will be Cancelled?

by Charles Hugh Smith

http://charleshughsmith.blogspot (August 22 2016)

 

It’s tough to pay for an Olympics when 95% of your supposed “wealth” has vanished.

In the modern era (1896~present), the Olympics have only been cancelled in wartime: 1916 (World War One), 1940 and 1944 (World War Two). But world war is not the only circumstance that could derail the Olympics; a global crisis in energy, finance or geopolitics could send the risks and costs of the Olympics beyond the reach of most participants.
The key to understanding the odds of an Olympic cancellation is Liebig’s Law of the Minimum {1}, which states states that “growth is controlled not by the total amount of resources available, but by the scarcest resource”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liebig%27s_law_of_the_minimum

As I have outlined elsewhere, the three resources that will become increasingly scarce globally going forward are:

1. Geopolitical stability

2. Energy abundance (that is, abundant and affordable to the bottom 95%)

3. Financial/currency stability

A global scarcity of any of these three could sink the Olympics in 2020 and 2022. I’ve discussed the geopolitical, financial and resource risks in four recent posts:

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogaug16/food-crisis8-16.html

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogaug16/catch22-deep-state8-16.html

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogaug16/stagnant-wages8-16.html

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogaug16/long-game8-16.html

The current confidence that everything will remain stable for years to come is based on a misleading extrapolation of current trends. Just because the global status quo has managed to maintain a facade or normalcy for the past eight years does not mean the New Normal (central banks pumping $180 billion a month into the global financial system to keep it afloat) is identical with the pre-crisis Old Normal.

Seneca’s Cliff offers a more accurate model of reality: everything stays the same until it doesn’t. The slide down is much faster and more abrupt than the steady advance to the cliff’s edge:

The reality is the status quo has been forced to increase its interventions just to maintain the steady-state facade of normalcy. This constant increase of resources being devoted to prop up an unsustainable system is not consequence-free; the effort generates unintended consequences and increases the systemic risks.

The status quo must then ramp up its interventions and manipulations to compensate for the strains and risks breaking through the carefully managed facade of normalcy.

War is not the only possible disruptor of the 2020 & 2022 Olympics. Geopolitical tensions could rise to the point that boycotts effectively gut the Olympics. Global disruptions of energy (severe shortages and soaring costs) could put the Olympics out of reach for many participants – and of course these two risks are connected. Energy shortages and geopolitical conflicts go hand in hand.

A funny thing happens in a severe currency crisis: 95% of the phantom wealth suddenly disappears. The value of fiat currencies is established by a number of factors, but the primary one is demand for the currency, which is tied to participants’ trust that the currency will retain its current value (or appreciate) going forward.

Once that trust is lost, the downward spiral creates panic selling.
In the current narrative, central banks can always “save the day” by printing money or opening the floodgates of unlimited credit.

The problem won’t be a lack of currency or credit – the problem will be a scarcity of trustworthy collateral to back up the credit and currency. If the value of the collateral is impaired, the credit leveraged on the collateral will also be impaired.

In other words, a loss of faith in a currency cannot be reversed when faith in the central bank’s magical powers has also been lost. The dramatic decline in the purchasing power of Venezuela’s currency offers a modern-day example of what happens to phantom wealth in a currency crisis.

It’s tough to pay for an Olympics when 95% of your supposed “wealth” has vanished. To save face, the host nation may attempt a severely truncated Olympics with a few participants and mostly empty venues, but the reality will be visible to all: it would have been better to cancel the Olympics and avoid the embarrassment of a failed show crippled by scarcities.

What are the odds that the 2020 & 2022 Olympics will be cancelled (or completely distrupted)? A lot higher than most people think.

Of related interest:

* http://www.peakprosperity.com/podcast/100873/alice-friedemann-when-trucks-stop-running

* http://www.barrons.com/articles/stephanie-pomboy-a-grim-outlook-for-the-economy-stocks-1471670011

* http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-08-21/jeffrey-snider-all-signs-point-systemic-reset

 

http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.jp/2016/08/what-are-odds-that-2020-2022-olympics.html

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Provoking Nuclear War by Media

by John Pilger

http://johnpilger.com (August 23 2016)

The exoneration of a man accused of the worst of crimes, genocide, made no headlines. Neither the BBC nor CNN covered it. The Guardian allowed a brief commentary. Such a rare official admission was buried or suppressed, understandably. It would explain too much about how the rulers of the world rule.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (“ICTY”) in The Hague has quietly cleared the late Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, of war crimes committed during the 1992~1995 Bosnian war, including the massacre at Srebrenica.

Far from conspiring with the convicted Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Milosevic actually “condemned ethnic cleansing”, opposed Karadzic and tried to stop the war that dismembered Yugoslavia. Buried near the end of a 2,590 page judgement on Karadzic last February, this truth further demolishes the propaganda that justified Nato’s illegal onslaught on Serbia in 1999.

Milosevic died of a heart attack in 2006, alone in his cell in The Hague, during what amounted to a bogus trial by an American-invented “international tribunal”. Denied heart surgery that might have saved his life, his condition worsened and was monitored and kept secret by US officials, as WikiLeaks has since revealed.

Milosevic was the victim of war propaganda that today runs like a torrent across our screens and newspapers and beckons great danger for us all. He was the prototype demon, vilified by the western media as the “butcher of the Balkans” who was responsible for “genocide”, especially in the secessionist Yugoslav province of Kosovo. Prime Minister Tony Blair said so, invoked the Holocaust and demanded action against “this new Hitler”. David Scheffer, the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes [sic], declared that as many as “225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between fourteen and 59” may have been murdered by Milosevic’s forces.

This was the justification for Nato’s bombing, led by Bill Clinton and Blair, that killed hundreds of civilians in hospitals, schools, churches, parks and television studios and destroyed Serbia’s economic infrastructure. It was blatantly ideological; at a notorious “peace conference” in Rambouillet in France, Milosevic was confronted by Madeleine Albright, the US secretary of state, who was to achieve infamy with her remark that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children were “worth it”.

Albright delivered an “offer” to Milosevic that no national leader could accept. Unless he agreed to the foreign military occupation of his country, with the occupying forces “outside the legal process”, and to the imposition of a neo-liberal “free market”, Serbia would be bombed. This was contained in an “Appendix B”, which the media failed to read or suppressed. The aim was to crush Europe’s last independent “socialist” state.

Once Nato began bombing, there was a stampede of Kosovar refugees “fleeing a holocaust”. When it was over, international police teams descended on Kosovo to exhume the victims of the “holocaust”. The FBI failed to find a single mass grave and went home. The Spanish forensic team did the same, its leader angrily denouncing “a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines”. The final count of the dead in Kosovo was 2,788. This included combatants on both sides and Serbs and Roma murdered by the pro-Nato Kosovo Liberation Front. There was no genocide. The Nato attack was both a fraud and a war crime.

All but a fraction of America’s vaunted “precision guided” missiles hit not military but civilian targets, including the news studios of Radio Television Serbia in Belgrade. Sixteen people were killed, including cameramen, producers and a make-up artist. Blair described the dead, profanely, as part of Serbia’s “command and control”. In 2008, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Carla Del Ponte, revealed that she had been pressured not to investigate Nato’s crimes.

This was the model for Washington’s subsequent invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and, by stealth, Syria. All qualify as “paramount crimes” under the Nuremberg standard; all depended on media propaganda. While tabloid journalism played its traditional part, it was serious, credible, often liberal journalism that was the most effective – the evangelical promotion of Blair and his wars by the Guardian, the incessant lies about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction in the Observer and the New York Times, and the unerring drumbeat of government propaganda by the BBC in the silence of its omissions.

At the height of the bombing, the BBC’s Kirsty Wark interviewed General Wesley Clark, the Nato commander. The Serbian city of Nis had just been sprayed with American cluster bombs, killing women, old people and children in an open market and a hospital. Wark asked not a single question about this, or about any other civilian deaths. Others were more brazen. In February 2003, the day after Blair and Bush had set fire to Iraq, the BBC’s political editor, Andrew Marr, stood in Downing Street and made what amounted to a victory speech. He excitedly told his viewers that Blair had “said they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right”. Today, with a million dead and a society in ruins, Marr’s BBC interviews are recommended by the US embassy in London.

Marr’s colleagues lined up to pronounce Blair “vindicated”. The BBC’s Washington correspondent, Matt Frei, said, “There’s no doubt that the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially to the Middle East … is now increasingly tied up with military power”.

This obeisance to the United States and its collaborators as a benign force “bringing good” runs deep in western establishment journalism. It ensures that the present-day catastrophe in Syria is blamed exclusively on Bashar al-Assad, whom the West and Israel have long conspired to overthrow, not for any humanitarian concerns, but to consolidate Israel’s aggressive power in the region. The jihadist forces unleashed and armed by the US, Britain, France, Turkey and their “coalition” proxies serve this end. It is they who dispense the propaganda and videos that becomes news in the US and Europe, and provide access to journalists and guarantee a one-sided “coverage” of Syria.

The city of Aleppo is in the news. Most readers and viewers will be unaware that the majority of the population of Aleppo lives in the government-controlled western part of the city. That they suffer daily artillery bombardment from western-sponsored al-Qaida is not news. On 21 July, French and American bombers attacked a government village in Aleppo province, killing up to 125 civilians. This was reported on page 22 of the Guardian; there were no photographs.

Having created and underwritten jihadism in Afghanistan in the 1980s as Operation Cyclone – a weapon to destroy the Soviet Union – the US is doing something similar in Syria. Like the Afghan Mujahideen, the Syrian “rebels” are America’s and Britain’s foot soldiers. Many fight for al-Qaida and its variants; some, like the Nusra Front, have rebranded themselves to comply with American sensitivities over 9/11. The CIA runs them, with difficulty, as it runs jihadists all over the world.

The immediate aim is to destroy the government in Damascus, which, according to the most credible poll (YouGov Siraj), the majority of Syrians support, or at least look to for protection, regardless of the barbarism in its shadows. The long-term aim is to deny Russia a key Middle Eastern ally as part of a Nato war of attrition against the Russian Federation that eventually destroys it.

The nuclear risk is obvious, though suppressed by the media across “the free world”. The editorial writers of the Washington Post, having promoted the fiction of WMD in Iraq, demand that Obama attack Syria. Hillary Clinton, who publicly rejoiced at her executioner’s role during the destruction of Libya, has repeatedly indicated that, as president, she will “go further” than Obama.

Gareth Porter, a samidzat journalist reporting from Washington, recently revealed the names of those likely to make up a Clinton cabinet, who plan an attack on Syria. All have belligerent cold war histories; the former CIA director, Leon Panetta, says that “the next president is gonna have to consider adding additional special forces on the ground”.

What is most remarkable about the war propaganda now in floodtide is its patent absurdity and familiarity. I have been looking through archive film from Washington in the 1950s when diplomats, civil servants and journalists were witch-hunted and ruined by Senator Joe McCarthy for challenging the lies and paranoia about the Soviet Union and China. Like a resurgent tumour, the anti-Russia cult has returned.

In Britain, the Guardian‘s Luke Harding leads his newspaper’s Russia-haters in a stream of journalistic parodies that assign to Vladimir Putin every earthly iniquity. When the Panama Papers leak was published, the front page said Putin, and there was a picture of Putin; never mind that Putin was not mentioned anywhere in the leaks.

Like Milosevic, Putin is Demon Number One. It was Putin who shot down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. Headline: “As far as I’m concerned, Putin killed my son”. No evidence required. It was Putin who was responsible for Washington’s documented (and paid for) overthrow of the elected government in Kiev in 2014. The subsequent terror campaign by fascist militias against the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine was the result of Putin’s “aggression”. Preventing Crimea from becoming a Nato missile base and protecting the mostly Russian population who had voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia – from which Crimea had been annexed – were more examples of Putin’s “aggression”. Smear by media inevitably becomes war by media. If war with Russia breaks out, by design or by accident, journalists will bear much of the responsibility.

In the US, the anti-Russia campaign has been elevated to virtual reality. The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, an economist with a Nobel Prize, has called Donald Trump the “Siberian Candidate” because Trump is Putin’s man, he says. Trump had dared to suggest, in a rare lucid moment, that war with Russia might be a bad idea. In fact, he has gone further and removed American arms shipments to Ukraine from the Republican platform. “Wouldn’t it be great if we got along with Russia”, he said.

This is why America’s warmongering liberal establishment hates him. Trump’s racism and ranting demagoguery have nothing to do with it. Bill and Hillary Clinton’s record of racism and extremism can out-trump Trump’s any day. (This week is the twentieth anniversary of the Clinton welfare “reform” that launched a war on African-Americans). As for Obama: while American police gun down his fellow African-Americans the great hope in the White House has done nothing to protect them, nothing to relieve their impoverishment, while running four rapacious wars and an assassination campaign without precedent.

The CIA has demanded Trump is not elected. Pentagon generals have demanded he is not elected. The pro-war New York Times – taking a breather from its relentless low-rent Putin smears – demands that he is not elected. Something is up. These tribunes of “perpetual war” are terrified that the multi-billion-dollar business of war by which the United States maintains its dominance will be undermined if Trump does a deal with Putin, then with China’s Xi Jinping. Their panic at the possibility of the world’s great power talking peace – however unlikely – would be the blackest farce were the issues not so dire.

“Trump would have loved Stalin!” bellowed Vice-President Joe Biden at a rally for Hillary Clinton. With Clinton nodding, he shouted,

 

 

We never bow. We never bend. We never kneel. We never yield. We own the finish line. That’s who we are. We are America!

 

 

In Britain, Jeremy Corbyn has also excited hysteria from the war-makers in the Labour Party and from a media devoted to trashing him. Lord West, a former admiral and Labour minister, put it well. Corbyn was taking an “outrageous” anti-war position “because it gets the unthinking masses to vote for him”.

In a debate with leadership challenger Owen Smith, Corbyn was asked by the moderator: “How would you act on a violation by Vladimir Putin of a fellow Nato state?” Corbyn replied:

 

 

You would want to avoid that happening in the first place. You would build up a good dialogue with Russia … We would try to introduce a de-militarisation of the borders between Russia, the Ukraine and the other countries on the border between Russia and Eastern Europe. What we cannot allow is a series of calamitous build-ups of troops on both sides which can only lead to great danger.

 

 

Pressed to say if he would authorise war against Russia “if you had to”, Corbyn replied:

 

 

I don’t wish to go to war – what I want to do is achieve a world that we don’t need to go to war.

 

 

The line of questioning owes much to the rise of Britain’s liberal war-makers. The Labour Party and the media have long offered them career opportunities. For a while the moral tsunami of the great crime of Iraq left them floundering, their inversions of the truth a temporary embarrassment. Regardless of Chilcot and the mountain of incriminating facts, Blair remains their inspiration, because he was a “winner”.

Dissenting journalism and scholarship have since been systematically banished or appropriated, and democratic ideas emptied and refilled with “identity politics” that confuse gender with feminism and public angst with liberation and wilfully ignore the state violence and weapons profiteering that destroys countless lives in faraway places, like Yemen and Syria, and beckon nuclear war in Europe and across the world.

The stirring of people of all ages around the spectacular rise of Jeremy Corbyn counters this to some extent. His life has been spent illuminating the horror of war. The problem for Corbyn and his supporters is the Labour Party. In America, the problem for the thousands of followers of Bernie Sanders was the Democratic Party, not to mention their ultimate betrayal by their great white hope. In the US, home of the great civil rights and anti-war movements, it is Black Lives Matter and the likes of Codepink that lay the roots of a modern version.

For only a movement that swells into every street and across borders and does not give up can stop the warmongers. Next year, it will be a century since Wilfred Owen wrote the following. Every journalist should read it and remember it …

 

 

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

 

http://johnpilger.com/articles/provoking-nuclear-war-by-media

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The Emperor’s New Art

A Parable

by John Michael Greer

The Archdruid Report (August 10 2016)

Druid perspectives on nature, culture, and the future of industrial society

Last week’s episode of the Retrotopia narrative ended up launching, rather to my surprise, an extensive discussion about the nature of art. The spark that set off this unexpected blaze was a passing comment on the part of the story’s protagonist, who described the abstract paintings on the walls of the Atlantic Republic embassy in Toledo in somewhat rude language. That was meant as a throwaway line, one more display of the way the protagonist’s views had changed during his visit to my imaginary Lakeland Republic – but it fielded me a minor flurry of denunciation from people who couldn’t stand the fact that a character of mine had expressed a lack of appreciation for one variety of modern art.

Those of my readers who’ve come in for bullying from the art crowd know exactly what sort of thing those tirades included. Those who’ve evaded that experience so far – well, I was told that I had no right to have an opinion on the subject, that I don’t know anything about art, that I obviously prefer Norman Rockwell, that I’m offended by intellectual challenges, that I’m offended by new techniques and media, that I feel threatened by modern art, that I’m in favor of censorship, and that I’d change my mind if I just stood in front of an abstract expressionist canvas and tried to understand my reactions.

It’s worth noting that none of these claims happens to be true, but let’s set that aside for a moment and take a look at what happened. I had a character in a story express an opinion about art – an opinion, by the way, that was relevant to the story and also to the character – and that was enough to send some of my readers into a fair imitation of a Donald Duck splutterfest. This isn’t the first time, or the hundred and first time, that I’ve watched that same sequence unfold. Across the spectrum of contemporary art, if you display a lack of enthusiasm for anything produced by someone whose claim to the status of “artist” is accepted by the art scene, you can expect to field something of the kind.

That can be highly entertaining – I certainly found the latest round of it a source of wry amusement – but it’s also relevant to the subject of the current series of posts on education for the deindustrial era. One of the core things you should expect to get from any education worth the name is the ability to sort out gold from garbage: to recognize, in the fields of learning and creativity, the differences between genuine insight, recycled cliche, and pretentious noise. To get that ability, it’s crucial to recognize that there are two kinds of bad practice in the arts, sciences, and scholarship.

The first of them can be called, without too much distortion, lowbrow trash. What defines lowbrow trash is that it rehashes the overfamiliar. It deploys stereotyped effects in stereotyped ways to evoke stereotyped sentiment. It tends to be popular among the poor, because people who have to bear the brutal insecurities every complex society inflicts on its more vulnerable members desperately need the reassurance of the familiar, and if black velvet paintings of dogs playing poker are what’s available to meet that need, then that’s what will go on their walls. (There are better options, but these days those generally aren’t available to the poor.) The apotheosis of lowbrow trash is kitsch, which wallows so enthusiastically in rehashed sentiment that it achieves unintentional self-parody.

There is also, as it happens, lowbrow trash in scholarship and science. Here you find the histories that regurgitate every currently accepted stereotype about this or that corner of the past, the scientific papers that “prove” some bit of conventional wisdom by excluding contradictory data – this is easy to do if you know your way around experimental design – and so on. These also have their own forms of kitsch, though you often need a little more specialized education to catch the unintentional self-parody.

That said, lowbrow trash is only one side of the picture. There’s another side, and since this entire discussion started with a bit of fiction, I don’t think it’s out of line to ask my readers to gather around old Father Goose for a few minutes and listen to a story called “The Emperor’s New Art”.

This all happened right after the events of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”; any of my readers who don’t happen to know that tale can find a pleasant online version here {1}. The two fraudulent tailors who’d sold the emperor a suit of nonexistent clothes were marched to the nearest border and thrown out of the empire with a warning never to return. They had very little money and knew better to try the same scam on the ruler of the next empire over, since even in those days, news traveled fast. So there they sat on a stone fence, trying to figure out what they were going to do.

“I know”, said the taller of the two. “The emperor of this land is an art lover. We can become painters.”

“But neither of us knows the first thing about painting!” the shorter tailor replied.

“Neither of us knows the first thing about making clothing, either”, the taller one reminded him. “Let’s see if we have enough money between us to buy some art supplies”.

Now since this is a fairy tale, there was an art supply store waiting just down the road, and the two found they had just enough money between them to buy a canvas, some brushes, a set of paints in flimsy tubes, and a spray bottle of fixative. That didn’t leave them enough money to rent a studio, or even a room for the night, and the day was almost over, so they found a dry place under some trees and went to sleep with their art supplies safe, as they thought, between them.

Late that night a stray dog came trotting by. He was not too bright, and to him, the tubes of paint looked like puppy treats. He sneaked up between the two tailors and gobbled up the paint tubes in three quick gulps, breaking them open with his teeth in the process. Before he could trot away, though, the first mouthful of paint hit his stomach and made it lurch. The second mouthful made it lurch again, and the third – well, to make a long and somewhat anatomical story short, he proceeded to throw up the paint, along with everything else he’d eaten that evening, right onto the canvas. He then backed away, and ran off to find some tasty grass to settle his stomach.

The two tailors woke at sunrise to find their paint tubes gone and a great deal of technicolor dog barf all over their one canvas. “Oh, no!” cried the shorter tailor. “Our art supplies are spoiled and we have no money to buy more. We’ll never become famous painters now!”

“Nonsense”, said the taller one. “You never did have enough imagination”. He carefully dried the canvas in the sun and sprayed fixative over it. “Here is our first masterpiece”.

So they proceeded to the palace of the emperor. On the way they grew beards and let their hair get long, and they stole an assortment of ill-fitting clothing from clotheslines along the way so they could look eccentric and bohemian. So attired, they presented themselves to the imperial art committee and said, “We are great artists, so brilliant, so avant-garde, and so tormented by our talent that our work can only be understood by the truly sophisticated. Ordinary people – well! Ordinary people look at our paintings and say, ‘That looks like dog barf’, but that simply shows how pedestrian their tastes are, how little they understand the true sublimity of which art is capable. But you, ladies and gentlemen, you are persons of refined taste and deep aesthetic sensitivity. We know that you will appreciate …” He held up the canvas on which the dog had thrown up. “… the first great work of the Borborygmist school of art!”

Now of course the first thought of every member of the imperial art committee was, “That looks like dog barf”. As soon as that thought entered their minds, though, every one of them thought, “Oh, no! Does that mean that my tastes are pedestrian and I don’t understand the true sublimity of which art is capable?” So none of them said anything at first. Then one, who felt a little more insecure than the others and felt he had to prove that he didn’t have pedestrian tastes, said, “This is indeed a great work of art”. All the others thought, “He must have refined taste and deep aesthetic sensitivity”. So they all began to praise the painting, and the more they looked at it, the more they succeeded in convincing themselves that it couldn’t be what it obviously was, that is, a canvas on which a dog had thrown up.

So the two artists sold the painting to the Emperor for a tidy sum. The Emperor didn’t actually think much of it – his first thought on seeing it was, “That looks like dog barf” – but since all the members of the imperial art committee insisted that it was a great masterpiece and only people with pedestrian tastes thought it looked like dog barf, he kept his mouth shut and tried to convince himself that it really was a masterpiece. One day, though, when the painting had been put on display for the public, and the artists and the members of the art committee and the Emperor himself were standing there beaming, a little child came up, took one look at the painting, and said, “That looks like dog barf”.

The artists, the committee members, and the Emperor all looked down their noses at the child and said, “Child, you obviously know nothing about art”. So the child went away, and the artists lived happily ever after – and that, my children, is most of what you need to know about the history of modern art.

That is to say, lowbrow trash is not the only kind of trash that needs to be recognized as such by the educated person. There is also highbrow trash. Where lowbrow trash communicates overfamiliar sentiments in overfamiliar ways, highbrow trash avoids communication by saying nothing that can be interpreted outside of a narrow circle of cognoscenti. It’s meant to exclude, so that its purveyors and connoisseurs can feel superior to those who those who don’t get it. As lowbrow trash appeals to the poor, who need the comforts of familiarity in an insecure world, highbrow trash appeals to the affluent, who tend to be sheltered from adversity and so get bored easily, and who also tend to flock to anything that will allow them to parade their supposed superiority to the poor.

There’s plenty of highbrow trash in the realms of scholarship and the sciences, just as there’s plenty of lowbrow trash there. As with lowbrow trash, too, there’s a far end to the spectrum, a point at which it achieves self-parody and becomes unintentionally funny. There is unfortunately no common word for this latter, no equivalent word to kitsch, so one needs to be coined; the term I have in mind is “warhol”.

This is not to express any lack of respect for Andy Warhol, whose name provides that label. Quite the contrary, I admire the man immensely. He was arguably the twentieth century’s greatest satirist, a comic genius so versatile and so subtle that some of the butts of his humor haven’t yet realized that the joke was on them. This was the man who meticulously copied a supermarket box of Brillo pads and sold that as a work of art. No less a philosopher than Arthur Danto spent a good fraction of his career trying to come up with an aesthetic philosophy and a definition of art that would allow Warhol’s Brillo box to keep its status as an artwork, and never seems to have gotten the joke.

There is, as it happens, precisely one theory of art that justifies the claim that Warhol’s Brillo box is art. It’s the theory that there are certain very, very special people called “artists” who are so tremendously creative, so overwhelmingly sensitive, so dripping with sheer aesthetic oomph, that anything they treat as art is, ipse dixit, art. If an eight-year-old boy hangs a urinal on a nail on the wall for people to see, that’s a prank, but if Marcel Duchamp does it, it’s a great work of art. Why? Because art oozes out of every pore of his body, that’s why, and there’s a puddle of it on the urinal to this day. It’s understandable that artists should find this way of defining art congenial to their egos, but it’s just as understandable that Andy Warhol’s wicked sense of humor would zero in on so comically arrogant a claim, and push it past its logical extreme into rank absurdity.

Let us please get real: a urinal does not become a work of art because an artist sticks it on a wall, nor does a Brillo box become a work of art because Andy Warhol decides to pull the art world’s collective leg. Plenty of other examples could be added – there’s no shortage of highbrow trash these days, and no shortage of warhol, either – and an important part of education is developing a strong enough personal sense of aesthetic and intellectual taste that when a couple of former tailors come along with dog barf on a canvas and insist that this is the first great masterpiece of the Borborygmist school of art, the educated person is confident enough to say, “No, that’s dog barf”.

How do you develop that kind of personal sense? There’s a very simple, straightforward way; it’s been standard practice in every literate society for thousands of years, and the current intellectual climate in today’s United States treats it as three steps lower than evil incarnate.

That is to say, you have a canon.

A canon is a set of works in any given field that are generally accepted as masterpieces. In a healthy culture, pretty much every educated person has encountered and studied the works that belong to the canon of that culture. The word “canon” literally means “measure”, and that’s what a canon does: it gives you something to measure other works of the same kind. Let’s take literature as an example. There are, in every literature and every branch of literature, certain works that stand head and shoulders above the rest, and an important part of education consists of reading those works, thinking about them, studying them, figuring out what makes them great (and also where they stumble), and developing a personal sense of literary taste by exposure to them. Is the canon the only thing you read? Of course not – what’s the use of a means of measuring if you don’t use it to measure something other than itself?

A canon, by the way, is always contested, it’s always in flux, and it’s always unfair. Different works rise up into the canon and drift back out of it in response to the vagaries of taste. There have been times when Shakespeare’s plays were cast out from the canon as too vulgar, and novels most people now find insufferably stuffy were considered marvels of literary genius. That’s inevitable, because a canon is always and only a summary of the collective aesthetic and intellectual taste of an age, and inevitably suffers from the blind spots of the age. If there’s some kind of absolute ideal of beauty or sublimity out there, of the sort Plato imagined, it’s not accessible to mere human beings. All we have to work with is our own, hopefully more or less educated reactions to works of art, science, and scholarship.

So each culture in each age, with rare exceptions, adapts the canon of arts, sciences, and scholarship that it considers important, adding some works and deleting others, on the basis of its own inevitably flawed perceptions, and proceeds to use that as a basis for education. The exceptions are periods like the present, when the schism in society anatomized by Arnold Toynbee in A Study of History (1943~1961) shatters the sense of shared values that binds a society together, and you end up with a polarized mess in which the dominant minority and the internal proletariat glare at each other across a wasteland of smoking ruins. At such times, the dominant minority plunges with gusto into highbrow trash, the internal proletariat plunges with equal verve into lowbrow trash, and both sides pretend that those are the only two possible options – that those who don’t like abstract expressionism must therefore love Norman Rockwell, and vice versa.

That’s not good for art, or for that matter science or scholarship. One of the things that individuals who care about any of these things can contribute to their welfare is to cast aside the dubious enticements of both kinds of trash, try to construct some approximation of a canon in the fields that matter to them, and educate themselves in the time-honored method of repeated exposure to, and reflection on, really first-rate works. It’s from such efforts, once the schism in society completes its trajectory, that a new canon emerges, and the heritage of the past gets handed on to guide the creative minds of the future.

A couple of additional notes may be useful here. First, just because you’ve identified something as trash, highbrow or lowbrow, doesn’t mean you have to avoid it. Trash can be fun. I inherit from my misspent youth, for example, an amused delight in really bad fantasy fiction, the kind of thing that Poul Anderson anatomized brilliantly in his essay “On Thud and Blunder”, and there are books I keep on hand when I want to wallow in that sort of thing. For all I know, there are people who have a similar reaction to abstract expressionist paintings, though I admit I’ve never met one.

Second, just because you know it’s good doesn’t mean you have to like it. I don’t happen to like Italian opera, for example. I know that it contains a good selection of world-class masterpieces, but they’re not to my taste, and so I leave them to those who delight in them. I have a similar reaction to rap music, and to a variety of other art genres. My wife has a BFA in art history, and we routinely visit art museums when we travel, but our tastes differ somewhat – she’s gaga for the Impressionists, who I find pleasant but not the overwhelming experience they are for her; our roles reverse when it comes to the French Symbolists; by mutual consent, we avoid the modern art wing altogether and make a beeline for the Japanese gallery and the medieval and Renaissance European collections. Meanwhile, other people are making their own choices, and so should you.

Finally, laughter is an appropriate response to art. It’s an even more appropriate response to highbrow or lowbrow trash, and of course it’s all but inescapable when you encounter kitsch or warhol. If the reaction you have when you stand in front of a canvas covered with dog barf is hysterical giggling, by all means giggle. It’s a salutary corrective to the cult of humorlessness that so often obsesses the purveyors and connoisseurs of highbrow trash.

With that in mind, we can proceed to …

 

 

* * * * *

Homework Assignment #3

 

 

As previously noted, since this sequence of posts is on education, there’s going to be homework. Your homework for the next month or so is to find three works in one field of art, science, or scholarship. One should be a work of lowbrow trash, one should be a work of highbrow trash, and the third should be a classic. All of them should be in the same genre – for example, you might choose three science fiction novels, or three paintings, or three operas, or three historical essays, or three books on physics.

The highbrow trash will probably be hardest to find, as this goes into and out of style in various genres, while lowbrow trash is eternal. If you happen to choose science fiction, for example, most of the over-the-top highbrow trash appeared in the New Wave era of the 1970s, when a good many writers decided to prove that science fiction was High Literature, and got pompous, humorless, and dull in the usual way. Lowbrow trash? Any bookstore or public library will have it by the yard; look for cliches that were already dated when the original Star Trek premiered. Classics? By and large, old Hugo Award winners qualify.

Put some time into all three works. Notice the difference in your responses to them. Also notice the objective differences in them. Don’t hesitate to laugh where appropriate.

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

Finally, I’m pleased to say that sales of the limited edition of the first of my Weird of Hali novels, Innsmouth, are going well. One implication is that if you want a complete set of the hardback edition, you have a limited amount of time left … and the second and third novels in the series, Kingsport and Chorazin, are already written. Copies can be purchased at {2}.

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

John Michael Greer is Past Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America {3}, current head of the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn {4}, and the author of more than thirty books on a wide range of subjects, including peak oil and the future of industrial society. He lives in Cumberland, Maryland, an old red brick mill town in the north central Appalachians, with his wife Sara.

 

Links:

{1} http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/68/fairy-tales-and-other-traditional-stories/5637/the-emperors-new-clothes/

{2} http://www.miskatonicbooks.com/THE-WEIRD-OF-HALI-INNSMOUTH-by-John-Michael-Greer-Signed-Limited-Edition-Hardcover.html

{3} http://www.aoda.org/

{4} http://www.druidical-gd.org/

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.jp/2016/08/the-emperors-new-art-parable.html

Categories: Uncategorized

A Thousand Balls of Flame

by Dmitry Orlov

Club Orlov (August 23 2016)

 

Russia is ready to respond to any provocation, but the last thing the Russians want is another war. And that, if you like good news, is the best news you are going to hear.

 

A whiff of World War Three hangs in the air. In the US, Cold War 2.0 is on, and the anti-Russian rhetoric emanating from the Clinton campaign, echoed by the mass media, hearkens back to McCarthyism and the red scare. In response, many people are starting to think that Armageddon might be nigh – an all-out nuclear exchange, followed by nuclear winter and human extinction. It seems that many people in the US like to think that way. Goodness gracious!

But, you know, this is hardly unreasonable of them. The US is spiraling down into financial, economic and political collapse, losing its standing in the world and turning into a continent-sized ghetto full of drug abuse, violence and decaying infrastructure, its population vice-ridden, poisoned with genetically modified food, morbidly obese, exploited by predatory police departments and city halls, plus a wide assortment of rackets, from medicine to education to real estate … That we know.

We also know how painful it is to realize that the US is damaged beyond repair, or to acquiesce to the fact that most of the damage is self-inflicted: the endless, useless wars, the limitless corruption of money politics, the toxic culture and gender wars, and the imperial hubris and willful ignorance that underlies it all … This level of disconnect between the expected and the observed certainly hurts, but the pain can be avoided, for a time, through mass delusion.

This sort of downward spiral does not automatically spell “Apocalypse”, but the specifics of the state cult of the US – an old-time religiosity overlaid with the secular religion of progress – are such that there can be no other options: either we are on our way up to build colonies on Mars, or we perish in a ball of flame. Since the humiliation of having to ask the Russians for permission to fly the Soyuz to the International Space Station makes the prospect of American space colonies seem dubious, it’s Plan B: balls of flame here we come!

And so, most of the recent American warmongering toward Russia can be explained by the desire to find anyone but oneself to blame for one’s unfolding demise. This is a well-understood psychological move – projecting the shadow – where one takes everything one hates but can’t admit to about oneself and projects it onto another. On a subconscious level (and, in the case of some very stupid people, even a conscious one) the Americans would like to nuke Russia until it glows, but can’t do so because Russia would nuke them right back. But the Americans can project that same desire onto Russia, and since they have to believe that they are good while Russia is evil, this makes the Armageddon scenario appear much more likely.

But this way of thinking involves a break with reality. There is exactly one nation in the world that nukes other countries, and that would be the United States. It gratuitously nuked Japan, which was ready to surrender anyway, just because it could. It prepared to nuke Russia at the start of the Cold War, but was prevented from doing so by a lack of a sufficiently large number of nuclear bombs at the time. And it attempted to render Russia defenseless against nuclear attack, abandoning the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, but has been prevented from doing so by Russia’s new weapons. These include, among others, long-range supersonic cruise missiles (Kalibr), and suborbital intercontinental missiles carrying multiple nuclear payloads capable of evasive maneuvers as they approach their targets (Sarmat). All of these new weapons are impossible to intercept using any conceivable defensive technology. At the same time, Russia has also developed its own defensive capabilities, and its latest S-500 system will effectively seal off Russia’s airspace, being able to intercept targets both close to the ground and in low Earth orbit.

In the meantime, the US has squandered a fantastic sum of money fattening up its notoriously corrupt defense establishment with various versions of “Star Wars”, but none of that money has been particularly well spent. The two installations in Europe of Aegis Ashore (completed in Romania, planned in Poland) won’t help against Kalibr missiles launched from submarines or small ships in the Pacific or the Atlantic, close to US shores, or against intercontinental missiles that can fly around them. The THAAD installation currently going into South Korea (which the locals are currently protesting by shaving their heads) won’t change the picture either.

There is exactly one nuclear aggressor nation on the planet, and it isn’t Russia. But this shouldn’t matter. In spite of American efforts to undermine it, the logic of Mutual Assured Destruction (“MAD”) remains in effect. The probability of a nuclear exchange is determined not by anyone’s policy but by the likelihood of it happening by accident. Since there is no winning strategy in a nuclear war, nobody has any reason to try to start one. Under no circumstances is the US ever going to be able to dictate its terms to Russia by threatening it with nuclear annihilation.

If a nuclear war is not in the cards, how about a conventional one? The US has been sabre-rattling by stationing troops and holding drills in the Baltics, right on Russia’s western border, installing ABM systems in Romania, Poland and South Korea, supporting anti-Russian Ukrainian Nazis, et cetera. All of this seems quite provocative; can it result in a war? And what would that war look like?

Here, we have to look at how Russia has responded to previous provocations. These are all the facts that we know, and can use to predict what will happen, as opposed to purely fictional, conjectural statements unrelated to known facts.

When the US or its proxies attack an enclave of Russian citizens outside of Russia’s borders, here are the types of responses that we have been able to observe so far:

1. The example of Georgia. During the Summer Olympics in Beijing (a traditional time of peace), the Georgian military, armed and trained by the US and Israel, invaded South Ossetia. This region was part of Georgia in name only, being mostly inhabited by Russian speakers and passport-holders. Georgian troops started shelling its capital, Tskhinval, killing some Russian peacekeeping troops stationed in the region and causing civilian casualties. In response, Russian troops rolled into Georgia, within hours completely eliminating Georgia’s war-making capability. They announced that South Ossetia was de facto no longer part of Georgia, throwing in Abkhazia (another disputed Russian enclave) for good measure, and withdrew. Georgia’s warmongering president Saakashvili was pronounced a “political corpse” and left to molder in place. Eventually he was forced to flee Georgia, where he has been declared a fugitive from justice. The US State Department recently gave him a new job, as Governor of Odessa in the Ukraine. Recently, Russian-Georgian relations have been on the mend.

2. The example of Crimea. During the Winter Olympics in Sochi, in Russia (a traditional time of peace) there occurred an illegal, violent overthrow of the elected, constitutional government of the Ukraine, followed by the installation of a US-picked puppet administration. In response, the overwhelmingly Russian population of the autonomous region of Crimea held a referendum. Some 95% of them voted to secede from the Ukraine and to once again become part of Russia, which they had been for centuries and until very recently. The Russians then used their troops already stationed in the region under an international agreement to make sure that the results of the referendum were duly enacted. Not a single shot was fired during this perfectly peaceful exercise in direct democracy.

3. The example of Crimea again. During the Summer Olympics in Rio (a traditional time of peace) a number of Ukrainian operatives stormed the Crimean border and were swiftly apprehended by Russia’s Federal Security Service, together with a cache of weapons and explosives. A number of them were killed in the process, along with two Russians. The survivors immediately confessed to planning to organize terrorist attacks at the ferry terminal that links Crimea with the Russian mainland and a railway station. The ringleader of the group confessed to being promised the princely sum of $140 for carrying out these attacks. All of them are very much looking forward to a warm, dry bunk and three square meals of day, care of the Russian government, which must seem like a slice of heaven compared to the violence, chaos, destitution and desolation that characterizes life in present-day Ukraine. In response, the government in Kiev protested against “Russian provocation”, and put its troops on alert to prepare against “Russian invasion”. Perhaps the next shipment of US aid to the Ukraine should include a supply of chlorpromazine or some other high-potency antipsychotic medication.

Note the constant refrain of “during the Olympics”. This is not a coincidence but is indicative of a certain American modus operandi. Yes, waging war during a traditional time of peace is both cynical and stupid. But the American motto seems to be “If we try something repeatedly and it still doesn’t work, then we just aren’t trying hard enough”. In the minds of those who plan these events, the reason they never work right can’t possibly have anything to do with it being stupid. This is known as “Level Three Stupid”: stupidity so profound that it is unable to comprehend its own stupidity.

4. The example of Donbass. After the events described in point 2 above, this populous, industrialized region, which was part of Russia until well into the twentieth century and is linguistically and culturally Russian, went into political turmoil, because most of the locals wanted nothing to do with the government that had been installed in Kiev, which they saw as illegitimate. The Kiev government proceeded to make things worse, first by enacting laws infringing on the rights of Russian-speakers, then by actually attacking the region with the army, which they continue to do to this day, with three unsuccessful invasions and continuous shelling of both residential and industrial areas, in the course of which over ten thousand civilians have been murdered and many more wounded. In response, Russia assisted with establishing a local resistance movement supported by a capable military contingent formed of local volunteers. This was done by Russian volunteers, acting in an official capacity, and by Russian private citizens donating money to the cause. In spite of Western hysteria over “Russian invasion” and “Russian aggression”, no evidence of it exists. Instead, the Russian government has done just three things: it refused to interfere with the work of its citizens coming to the aid of Donbass; it pursued a diplomatic strategy for resolving the conflict; and it has provided numerous convoys of humanitarian aid to the residents of Donbass. Russia’s diplomatic initiative resulted in two international agreements – Minsk I and Minsk II – which compelled both Kiev and Donbass to pursue a strategy of political resolution of the conflict through cessation of hostilities and the granting to Donbass of full autonomy. Kiev has steadfastly refused to fulfill its obligations under these agreements. The conflict is now frozen, but continuing to bleed because of Ukrainian shelling, waiting for the Ukrainian puppet government to collapse.

To complete the picture, let us include Russia’s recent military action in Syria, where it came to the defense of the embattled Syrian government and quickly demolished a large part of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/Islamic Caliphate, along with various other terrorist organizations active in the region. The rationale for this action is that Russia saw a foreign-funded terrorist nest in Syria as a direct threat to Russia’s security. Two other notable facts here are that Russia acted in accordance with international law, having been invited by Syria’s legitimate, internationally recognized government and that the military action was scaled back as soon as it seemed possible for all of the legitimate (non-terrorist) parties to the conflict to return to the negotiating table. These three elements – using military force as a reactive security measure, scrupulous adherence to international law, and seeing military action as being in the service of diplomacy – are very important to understanding Russia’s methods and ambitions.

Turning now to US military/diplomatic adventures, we see a situation that is quite different. US military spending is responsible for over half of all federal discretionary spending, dwarfing most other vitally important sectors, such as infrastructure, public medicine and public education. It serves several objectives. Most importantly, it is a public jobs program: a way of employing people who are not employable in any actually productive capacity due to lack of intelligence, education and training. Second, it is a way for politicians and defense contractors to synergistically enrich themselves and each other at the public’s expense. Third, it is an advertising program for weapons sales, the US being the top purveyor of lethal technology in the world. Last of all, it is a way of projecting force around the world, bombing into submission any country that dares oppose Washington’s global hegemonic ambitions, often in total disregard of international law. Nowhere on this list is the actual goal of defending the US.

None of these justifications works vis-a-vis Russia. In dollar terms, the US outspends Russia on defense hands down. However, viewed in terms of purchasing parity, Russia manages to buy as much as ten times more defensive capability per unit national wealth than the US, largely negating this advantage. Also, what the US gets for its money is inferior: the Russian military gets the weapons it wants; the US military gets what the corrupt political establishment and their accomplices in the military-industrial complex want in order to enrich themselves. In terms of being an advertising campaign for weapons sales, watching Russian weaponry in action in Syria, effectively wiping out terrorists in short order through a relentless bombing campaign using scant resources, then seeing US weaponry used by the Saudis in Yemen, with much support and advice from the US, being continuously defeated by lightly armed insurgents, is unlikely to generate too many additional sales leads. Lastly, the project of maintaining US global hegemony seems to be on the rocks as well. Russia and China are now in a de facto military union. Russia’s superior weaponry, coupled with China’s almost infinitely huge infantry, make it an undefeatable combination. Russia now has a permanent air base in Syria, has made a deal with Iran to use Iranian military bases, and is in the process of prying Turkey away from Nato. As the US military, with its numerous useless bases around the world and piles of useless gadgets, turns into an international embarrassment, it remains, for the time being, a public jobs program for employing incompetents, and a rich source of graft.

In all, it is important to understand how actually circumscribed American military capabilities are. The US is very good at attacking vastly inferior adversaries. The action against Nazi Germany only succeeded because it was by then effectively defeated by the Red Army – all except for the final mop-up, which is when the US came out of its timid isolation and joined the fray. Even North Korea and Vietnam proved too tough for it, and even there its poor performance would have been much poorer were it not for the draft, which had the effect of adding non-incompetents to the ranks, but produced the unpleasant side-effect of enlisted men shooting their incompetent officers – a much underreported chapter of American military history. And now, with the addition of LGBTQ people to the ranks, the US military is on its way to becoming an international laughing stock. Previously, terms like “faggot” and “pussy” were in widespread use in the US military’s basic training. Drill sergeants used such terminology to exhort the “numb-nuts” placed in their charge to start acting like men. I wonder what words drill sergeants use now that they’ve been tasked with training those they previously referred to as “faggots” and “pussies”? The comedic potential of this nuance isn’t lost on Russia’s military men.

This comedy can continue as long as the US military continues to shy away from attacking any serious adversary, because if it did, comedy would turn to tragedy rather quickly.

* If, for instance, US forces tried to attack Russian territory by lobbing missiles across the border, they would be neutralized in instantaneous retaliation by Russia’s vastly superior artillery.

* If Americans or their proxies provoked Russians living outside of Russia (and there are millions of them) to the point of open rebellion, Russian volunteers, acting in an unofficial capacity and using private funds, would quickly train, outfit and arm them, creating a popular insurgency that would continue for years, if necessary, until Americans and their proxies capitulate.

* If the Americans do the ultimately foolish thing and invade Russian territory, they would be kettled and annihilated, as repeatedly happened to the Ukrainian forces in Donbass.

* Any attempt to attack Russia using the US aircraft carrier fleet would result in its instantaneous sinking using any of several weapons: ballistic anti-ship missiles, supercavitating torpedos or supersonic cruise missiles.

* Strategic bombers, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles would be eliminated by Russia’s advanced new air defense systems.

So much for attack; but what about defense? Well it turns out that there is an entire separate dimension to engaging Russia militarily. You see, Russia lost a huge number of civilian lives while fighting off Nazi Germany. Many people, including old people, women and children, died of starvation and disease, or from German shelling, or from the abuse they suffered at the hands of German soldiers. On the other hand, Soviet military casualties were on par with those of the Germans. This incredible calamity befell Russia because it had been invaded, and it has conditioned Russian military thinking ever since. The next large-scale war, if there ever is one, will be fought on enemy territory. Thus, if the US attacks Russia, Russia will counterattack the US mainland. Keeping in mind that the US hasn’t fought a war on its own territory in over 150 years, this would come as quite a shock.

Of course, this would be done in ways that are consistent with Russian military thinking. Most importantly, the attack must be such that the possibility of triggering a nuclear exchange remains minimized. Second, the use of force would be kept to the minimum required to secure a cessation of hostilities and a return to the negotiating table on terms favorable to Russia. Third, every effort would be made to make good use of internal popular revolts to create long-lasting insurgencies, letting volunteers provide the necessary arms and training. Lastly, winning the peace is just as important as winning the war, and every effort would be made to inform the American public that what they are experiencing is just retribution for certain illegal acts. From a diplomatic perspective, it would be much more tidy to treat the problem of war criminals running the US as an internal, American political problem, to be solved by Americans themselves, with an absolute minimum of outside help. This would best be accomplished through a bit of friendly, neighborly intelligence-sharing, letting all interested parties within the US know who exactly should be held responsible for these war crimes, what they and their family members look like, and where they live.

The question then is, What is the absolute minimum of military action – what I am calling “a thousand balls of fire”, named after George Bush Senior’s “a thousand points of light” – to restore peace on terms favorable to Russia? It seems to me that 1000 “balls of fire” is just about the right number. These would be smallish explosions – enough to demolish a building or an industrial installation, with almost no casualties. This last point is extremely important, because the goal is to destroy the system without actually directly hurting any of the people. It wouldn’t be anyone else’s fault if people in the US suffer because they refuse to do as their own FEMA asks them to do: stockpile a month’s worth of food and water and put together an emergency evacuation plan. In addition, given the direction in which the US is heading, getting a second passport, expatriating your savings, and getting some firearms training just in case you end up sticking around are all good ideas.

The reason it is very important for this military action to not kill anyone is this: there are some three million Russians currently residing in the US, and killing any of them is definitely not on strategy. There is an even larger number of people from populous countries friendly to Russia, such as China and India, who should also remain unharmed. Thus, a strategy that would result in massive loss of life would simply not be acceptable. A much better scenario would involve producing a crisis that would quickly convince the Russians living in the US (along with all the other foreign nationals and first-generation immigrants, and quite a few of the second-generation immigrants too) that the US is no longer a good place to live. Then all of these people could be repatriated – a process that would no doubt take a few years. Currently, Russia is the number three destination worldwide for people looking for a better place to live, after the US and Germany. Germany is now on the verge of open revolt against Angela Merkel’s insane pro-immigration policies. The US is not far behind, and won’t remain an attractive destination for much longer. And that leaves Russia as the number one go-to place on the whole planet. That’s a lot of pressure, even for a country that is eleven time zones wide and has plenty of everything except tropical fruit and people.

We must also keep in mind that Israel – which is, let’s face it, a US protectorate temporarily parked on Palestinian land – wouldn’t last long without massive US support. Fully a third of Israeli population happens to be Russian. The moment Project Israel starts looking defunct, most of these Russian Jews, clever people that they are, will no doubt decide to stage an exodus and go right back to Russia, as is their right. This will create quite a headache for Russia’s Federal Migration Service, because it will have to sift through them all, letting in all the normal Russian Jews while keeping out the Zionist zealots, the war criminals and the ultra-religious nutcases. This will also take considerable time.

But actions that risk major loss of life also turn out to be entirely unnecessary, because an effective alternative strategy is available: destroy key pieces of government and corporate infrastructure, then fold your arms and wait for the other side to crawl back to the negotiating table waving a white white. You see, there are just a few magic ingredients that allow the US to continue to exist as a stable, developed country capable of projecting military force overseas. They are: the electric grid; the financial system; the interstate highway system; rail and ocean freight; the airlines; and oil and gas pipelines. Disable all of the above, and it’s pretty much game over. How many “balls of flame” would that take? Probably well under a thousand.

Disabling the electric grid is almost ridiculously easy, because the system is very highly integrated and interdependent, consisting of just three sub-grids, called “interconnects”: western, eastern and Texas. The most vulnerable parts of the system are the Large Power Transformers (“LPTs”) which step up voltages to millions of volts for transmission, and step them down again for distribution. These units are big as houses, custom-built, cost millions of dollars and a few years to replace, and are mostly manufactured outside the US. Also, along with the rest of the infrastructure in the US, most of them are quite old and prone to failure. There are several thousand of these key pieces of equipment, but because the electric grid in the US is working at close to capacity, with several critical choke points, it would be completely disabled if even a handful of the particularly strategic LPTs were destroyed. In the US, any extended power outage in any of the larger urban centers automatically triggers large-scale looting and mayhem. Some estimate that just a two week long outage would push the situation to a point of no return, where the damage would become too extensive to ever be repaired.

Disabling the financial system is likewise relatively trivial. There are just a few choke points, including the Federal Reserve, a few major banks, debit and credit card company data centers, et cetera. They can be disabled using a variety of methods, such as a cruise missile strike, a cyberattack, electric supply disruption or even civil unrest. It bears noting that the financial system in the US is rigged to blow even without foreign intervention. The combination of runaway debt, a gigantic bond bubble, the Federal Reserve trapped into ever-lower interest rates, underfunded pensions and other obligations, hugely overpriced real estate and a ridiculously frothy stock market will eventually detonate it from the inside.

A few more surgical strikes can take out the oil and gas pipelines, import terminals, highway bridges and tunnels, railroads and airlines. A few months without access to money and financial services, electricity, gasoline, diesel, natural gas, air transport or imported spare parts needed to repair the damage should be enough to force the US to capitulate. If it makes any efforts to restore any of these services, an additional strike or two would quickly negate them.

The number of “balls of flame” can be optimized by taking advantage of destructive synergies: a GPS jammer deployed near the site of an attack can prevent responders from navigating to it; taking out a supply depot together with the facility it serves, coupled with transportation system disruptions, can delay repairs by many months; a simple bomb threat can immobilize a transportation hub, making it a sitting duck instead of a large number of moving targets; et cetera.

You may think that executing such a fine-tuned attack would require a great deal of intelligence, which would be difficult to gather, but this is not the case. First, a great deal of tactically useful information is constantly being leaked by insiders, who often consider themselves “patriots”. Second, what hasn’t been leaked can be hacked, because of the pitiable state of cybersecurity in the US. Remember, Russia is where anti-virus software is made – and a few of the viruses too. The National Security Agency was recently hacked, and its crown jewels stolen; if it can be hacked, what about all those whose security it supposedly protects?

You might also think that the US, if attacked in this manner, could effectively retaliate in kind, but this scenario is rather difficult to imagine. Many Russians don’t find English too difficult, are generally familiar with the US through exposure to US media, and the specialists among them, especially those who have studied or taught at universities in the US, can navigate their field of expertise in the US almost as easily as in Russia. Most Americans, on the other hand, can barely find Russia on a map, can’t get past the Cyrillic alphabet and find Russian utterly incomprehensible.

Also consider that Russia’s defense establishment is mainly focused on … defense. Offending people in foreign lands is not generally seen as strategically important. “A hundred friends is better than a hundred rubles” is a popular saying. And so Russia manages to be friends with India and Pakistan at the same time, and with China and Vietnam. In the Middle East, it maintains cordial relations with Turkey, Syria, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt and Iran, also all at the same time. Russian diplomats are required to keep channels of communication open with friends and adversaries alike, at all times. Yes, being inexplicably adversarial toward Russia can be excruciatingly painful, but you can make it stop any time! All it takes is a phone call.

Add to this the fact that the vicissitudes of Russian history have conditioned Russia’s population to expect the worst, and simply deal with it. “They can’t kill us all!” is another favorite saying. If Americans manage to make them suffer, the Russian people would no doubt find great solace in the fact they are making the Americans suffer even worse, and many among them would think that this achievement, in itself, is already a victory. Nor will they remain without help; it is no accident that Russia’s Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu, previously ran the Emergencies Ministry, and his performance at his job there won him much adulation and praise. In short, if attacked, the Russians will simply take their lumps – as they always have – and then go on to conquer and win, as they always have.

It doesn’t help matters that most of what little Americans have been told about Russia by their political leaders and mass media is almost entirely wrong. They keep hearing about Putin and the “Russian bear”, and so they are probably imagining Russia to be a vast wasteland where Vladimir Putin keeps company with a chess-playing, internet server-hacking, nuclear physicist, rocket scientist, Ebola vaccine-inventing, polyglot, polymath bear. Bears are wonderful, Russians love bears, but let’s not overstate things. Yes, Russian bears can ride bicycles and are sometimes even good with children, but they are still just wild animals and/or pets (many Russians can’t draw that distinction). And so when the Americans growl about the “Russian bear”, the Russians wonder, Which one?

In short, Russia is to most Americans a mystery wrapped in an enigma, and there simply isn’t a large enough pool of intelligent Americans with good knowledge of Russia to draw upon, whereas to many Russians the US is an open book. As far as the actual American “intelligence” and “security” services, they are all bloated bureaucratic boondoggles mired in political opportunism and groupthink that excel at just two things: unquestioningly following idiotic procedures, and creatively fitting the facts to the politics du jour. “Proving” that Iraq has “weapons of mass destruction” – no problem! Telling Islamist terrorists apart from elderly midwestern grandmothers at an airport security checkpoint – no can do!

Russia will not resort to military measures against the US unless sorely provoked. Time and patience are on Russia’s side. With each passing year, the US grows weaker and loses friends and allies, while Russia grows stronger and gains friends and allies. The US, with its political dysfunction, runaway debt, decaying infrastructure and spreading civil unrest, is a dead nation walking. It will take time for each of the United States to neatly demolish themselves into their own footprints, like those three New York skyscrapers did on 9/11 (WTC #1, #2 and #7) but Russia is very patient. Russia is ready to respond to any provocation, but the last thing the Russians want is another war. And that, if you like good news, is the best news you are going to hear. But if you still think that there is going to be a war with Russia, don’t think “Armageddon”; think “a thousand balls of flame”, and then – crickets!

http://cluborlov.blogspot.jp/2016/08/a-thousand-balls-of-flame.html

Categories: Uncategorized

New Russia-China-Iran Alliance …

… Could Push US Out of Much of the Middle East

by Darius Shahtamasebi via TheAntiMedia.org {1}

Zero Hedge (August 22 2016)

When the current Syrian conflict first erupted in 2011 – and then enflamed in 2012 – a small minority {2} of the American public probably wondered why President Obama was not intervening to help the Syrian people as he had done in Libya {3} (they were likely completely unaware the president had already been interfering heavily in Syria since the conflict began {4}). However, some pundits speculated that Obama would eventually intervene directly, and that this intervention would be the beginning of the end of the American empire {5} as we know it.

What started out as a seemingly hollow prediction has become as true a statement as any. First, American involvement began with funding, arming, and training {6} violent rebels to try to overthrow the Syrian government. Then came attempts to misrepresent {7} so-called “intelligence” to justify military intervention against Assad in 2013. And finally, like a dream come true, Washington was then able to capitalize  on the growth of ISIS in Syria, a growth predicted by their own security establishment in 2012 {8}, which then became an excuse to start bombing Syrian territory in 2014 {9}. By interfering so forcibly in the affairs of Syria, the US has forced a number of countries  – notably Iran, China and Russia – to step up and strike back at US efforts to destabilize the region.

Since the beginning of the conflict, Iran has been heavily involved due to the fact Syria is an important ally to the Islamic republic, bound by a mutual defense agreement {10}. Much to the anger of the US {11}, just this week, Iran allowed Russia to strike Syrian territory from its Hamadan air base. Iran is supplying ground troops, advisement {12}, and high level training to Syrian pro-Assad forces. They are also providing a credit line {13}, and Iranian involvement is growing in tandem with the two nuclear powers also working in defense of the Syrian regime.

Russia has a history of being involved in Syria {14}, but following its direct military intervention last year {15}, they have shown they can set up their own no fly zone within the country at any moment (note that the Russian intervention is arguably legitimate given that they have received authority {16} from the Assad regime to do so). Despite this, they have continued to extend a hand {17} to Washington to achieve their stated goals of defeating ISIS together.

China has sided with Russia and Syria for some time now, using its veto power at the UN Security Council level {18} to block resolutions on Syria – after Russia and China were completely duped {19} by the Security Council resolution on Libya in 2011. China has warned {20} the US against attacking Syria and Iran, and now, they have officially {21} stated they are looking to join the fight on the side of the Syrian government, further complicating the issue from Washington’s standpoint.

Unless the US wants to confront these players directly, it has no choice but to accept that they have lost a war they directly and indirectly started {22} through covert CIA operations {23} that began in 2011 (and as some would argue, well before that {24}). This isn’t a loss in the Iraq or Vietnam sense – which are arguably victories in the eyes of the elite class {25}. Rather, the Syrian war is an operation that has left them with less influence in the region than when the Syrian crisis began (cue picture {26} of John Kerry dining with Bashar al-Assad in Damascus in 2009).

It will be back to the drawing board for Washington, whose only real move is to continue arming and funding fanatical jihadists or encourage Saudi Arabia and Turkey to deliver on their threat to send ground troops into Syria {27}. This will only delay the inevitable, however, and eventually they will have to either admit they have completely lost influence in the Shia-Crescent region {28} of the Middle East – which has, in turn, been snatched up by Russia and China – or directly confront these nuclear powers in an all-out war.

Or they can just wait until Hillary {29} is elected president.

Links:

{1} http://theantimedia.org/russia-china-iran-alliance/

{2} http://www.people-press.org/2012/03/15/little-support-for-u-s-intervention-in-syrian-conflict/

{3} http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21638122-another-font-global-mayhem-emergingnot-helped-regional-meddling-and-western

{4} http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/world/middleeast/jihadists-receiving-most-arms-sent-to-syrian-rebels.html?_r=0

{5} https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eY8lwBhNBRE

{6} https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMjXbuj7BPI

{7} http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n24/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin

{8} http://www.news.com.au/world/middle-east/military-documents-reveal-us-predicted-rise-of-islamic-state/news-story/9fd687bfed0b32f0d2ae140eeea5a8f7

{9} http://edition.cnn.com/2014/09/23/world/meast/syria-isis-airstrikes-explainer/

{10} https://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/feb/17/usa.syria

{11} http://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/17/politics/russia-us-iran-syria-strikes-un-resolution/

{12} http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-30882935

{13} http://time.com/4039940/these-5-facts-explain-bashar-assads-hold-in-syria/

{14} http://www.erjournal.ru/journals_n/1354741741.pdf

{15} http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11880974/Russia-begins-military-operations-in-Syria-as-Putin-sends-28-jets.html

{16} http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11919242/Why-does-Russia-support-Syrias-Bashar-al-Assad.html

{17} https://www.rt.com/news/350991-putin-regret-us-syria/

{18} https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/22/russia-china-veto-un-draft-resolution-refer-syria-international-criminal-court

{19} https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/hillarys-war-how-conviction-replaced-skepticism-in-libya-intervention/2011/10/28/gIQAhGS7WM_story.html

{20} http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2058579/Russia-China-warn-America-Iran-nuclear-strike-tensions-rise.html

{21} http://undergroundreporter.org/syria-world-war-powderkeg-china-joins-russian-alliance/

{22} https://www.yahoo.com/news/us-involvement-syria-since-2011-220904368.html?ref=gs

{23} http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-syria-obama-order-idUSBRE8701OK20120801

{24} http://www.mintpressnews.com/julian-assange-us-israel-planned-to-overthrow-assad-in-2006/209493/

{25} http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/03/22/the-usa-attacked-iraq-because-saddam-had-wd/

{26} http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10283045/John-Kerry-and-Bashar-al-Assad-dined-in-Damascus.html

{27} https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/14/turkey-and-saudi-arabia-consider-ground-campaign-in-syria-following-border-strikes

{28} https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jan/26/worlddispatch.ianblack

{29} http://theantimedia.org/hillary-will-do-this-if-she-wins/

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-08-22/new-russia-china-iran-alliance-could-push-us-out-much-middle-east

Categories: Uncategorized
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